49ers receiver Deebo Samuel finally will see his first game action since Super Bowl LIV this Sunday, but coach Kyle Shanahan says they will be careful with their starting receiver.
In the second half 2019, Samuel’s snap count never dipped below 73 percent. As a rookie, he became the most productive 49ers receiver, catching 57 of his 81 targets for 802 yards and three touchdowns. He scored an additional three times on the ground.
Shanahan explained that since this was the South Carolina product’s first week back at practice since February, the team is going to be cautious. Samuel will not necessarily be on a “pitch count,” but he won’t be out there in the same capacity as 2019 either -- at least not yet.
“I don’t expect him to be like that on Sunday,” Shanahan said Friday. “It is his first time back. Got to be smart with that. I know he’ll be out there, but it won’t be as his normal role, that’s for sure.”
According to the head coach, Samuel had a good week of practice. Shanahan is looking forward to seeing how his receiver continues to develop after earning the starting role midway through the 2019 season.
Another factor in Samuel’s return are the rash of injuries Shanahan has seen around the NFL after a truncated offseason. Without full tackling, joint practices or a preseason schedule, it is imperative that the player performance staff be vigilant in protecting their players.
“You see a lot of these injuries around the league,” Shanahan said. “It’s kind of what happens when you don’t go through the normal process of an offseason. When you have a guy who has missed a ton with his injury that makes it even stronger.”
But even more than Samuel’s physical abilities on the field, Shanahan was excited to have his sophomore receiver back at practice simply for the energy he brings. Samuel often is seen joking around with his teammates and dancing with fellow wideout Kendrick Bourne.
“You could feel it on Wednesday,” Shanahan said. “Deebo’s got a personality that everyone gravitates to. He works hard, but he’s a funny guy the guys like to hang around. It was cool to have him out there this week. You definitely feel a different vibe.”
Samuel’s return will be in conjunction with George Kittle’s first game back since suffering a knee sprain in Week 1. Both playmakers will be involved in the offensive game plan, but not to their typical capacity.
After the afternoon NFL games end Sunday, go to NBC Sports Bay Area or the MyTeams app at 4 p.m. PT for "49ers Pregame Live," as Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams, Matt Maiocco, Jennifer Lee Chan and Grant Liffmann preview the "Sunday Night Football" matchup against the Eagles. Then, after the game, come back for "49ers Postgame Live," with highlights, analysis, interviews and more.